As I come into class with my rubric ready to grade them, I notice all the groups hovering in different corners of the room, preparing for their presentation. I don't know exactly what to expect. I visited all their activities, but I'm not sure what they learned from the experience. I'm a little apprehensive that they "got" what I wanted them to learn, especially with such a short class. The first group went up and discussed their activity within a nursing home of highly disabled residents. Tears start to collect in my eyes when a students discusses her conversation with an elder resident, explaining that this experience brought her hope. Others mention how we, Americans, tend to treat the elderly. We place them in retirement facilities, and we forget about them. Others share that they realize that these people should be respected and valued. All concur and state they plan on volunteering again. I do hope so.
Another group follows discussing their experience at a homeless shelter. One student mentions how he was homeless at one time and really relates to the residents. The third group raised funds for wounded veterans. I was amazed on what they learned from their experience. One member summarized it perfectly. He stated that it's better to serve others than serve yourself. He gets it! All of them said they felt that volunteer high for days afterward. The last group discussed their gardening experience with the elderly. A student mentions how he's becoming more aware of those around him and began mowing lawns of elderly neighbors that couldn't do it themselves. I've always mentioned to my students about the "high" I get when I volunteer, especially when serving dinner for the homeless. I realized at that moment, that I have those "highs" all the time through my students. Their openness and willingness to serve inspires me to do more and to teach more about community service. What we teach and show them as educators may change their lives. We don't always have to be on the front line, and I forget about that. It's moments like these that enforce my higher purpose to educate and to serve. I couldn't be more grateful for my students for showing me that again and again.